Research Centers

MAE Research Portfolio 

The Mechanical and Engineering Department is involved in a variety of research projects.  The MAE Research Portfolio highlights many of these projects.  


MAE Research Centers

The following Research Centers are organized by the MAE Department.

Center for Materials Research (CMR)

The Center for Materials Sciences and Engineering provides a focus for research and education in Materials Science and Engineering at NPS. Research projects span the range from basic research sponsored by the NSF to applied work on microelectronics reliability sponsor by Intel Corp. through the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC), the Army Research Office (ARO). Also, projects include advanced processing of Naval materials sponsored by DARPA. 

[View more at the Center for Materials Research website.]


Center for Autonomous Vehicle Research (CAVR)

The primary goal of the NPS Center for AUV Research is to educate Navy and USMC officer students in the development and use of technologies needed for unmanned underwater vehicles through coursework, thesis and dissertation research. The secondary goal of the Center is to advance Naval UUV operations by providing: Support to the Fleet, Navy Labs and Program Offices, Testing and Experimentation of Advanced Technologies, Independent Verification and Validation of UUV Concepts, and Innovative Concept Development. Research is conducted into topics falling in the following broad areas: Underwater Navigation, Control and Communication; Tactical Decision Aids; Collaborative Multi-Vehicle Operations; Obstacle Avoidance (OA) using Forward Look Sonar; and Common UUV Mission Description Language. 
[View more at the Center for Autonomous Vehicle Research website.]


Turbopropulsion Laboratory

The Turbopropulsion Laboratory (TPL) houses a unique collection of experimental facilities for research and development related to compressors, turbines and advanced air-breathing propulsion engine concepts. In a complex of specially designed concrete structures, one building, powered by a 750 HP compressor, contains 10 by 60 inch rectilinear and 4 to 8 foot diameter radial cascade wind tunnels, and a large 3-stage axial research compressor for low speed studies. A two-component, automated traverse, LDV system is available for CFD code verification experiments. A second building, powered by a 1250 HP compressed air plant, contains fully instrumented transonic turbine and compressor rigs in explosion proof test cells. A spin-pit for structural testing of rotors to 50,000 RPM and 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit is provided. Model experiments and equipment for instrumentation development are located in a separate laboratory. Data acquisition from 400 channels of steady state and 32 channels of non-steady measurements, at up to 200kHz, is controlled by the laboratory's Pentium workstations. A third building houses a 600 HP radial and 150 HP boost compressor capable of delivering 2000 scfm of air at 10 and 20 atmospheres respectively. These charge four tanks for blow-down to a supersonic wind tunnel (4 x 4 inches), a transonic cascade wind tunnel (2 x 3 inches), and two free jets (one 6 inch and one 1 inch in diameter). The large free jet is equipped with an instrumented thrust stand for the testing of small gas turbine engines. The building also houses a 3-inch diameter shock tube. Pressure measurements are made with a 96-channel Scanivalve ZOC system and pressure sensitive paint, and schlieren and shadowgraph techniques are used routinely.

 [View more at the Center for Turbopropulsion Laboratory website.]


Spacecraft Research and Design Center

The Spacecraft Research and Design Center at the Naval Postgraduate School consists of six state-of-the art laboratories: Fltsatcom Laboratory, Spacecraft Attitude Dynamics and Control Laboratory, Smart Structures laboratory, Spacecraft Design Center, NPS-AFRL Optical Relay Mirror Spacecraft Laboratory, and Satellite Servicing Laboratory. These laboratories are used for instruction and research in space system engineering and space operations curricula. The emphasis has been on providing students with hands-on experience in the design, analysis, and testing of space systems and systems and to provide students facilities for experimental research. The emphasis in the research h areas is on acquisition, tracking and pointing of flexible spacecraft with optical payloads; active vibration control, Isolation, and suppression using smart structures; space robotics, satellite servicing, space system design, and computer aided design tools. These laboratories has been used in joint projects with Naval Satellite Operational Center, NRL, AFRL, Columbia University, and Boeing.
[View more at the Spacecraft Research and Design Center website.]


Aerodynamic Decelerator Systems Research Laboratory

The Aerodynamic Decelerator Systems Center, founded in 2001, is constantly working on different challenging projects, providing a wide variety of thesis opportunities in the different areas such as: Conceptual Design, CFD Analysis, Computer Modeling, Image Processing, Control Design, Sensor Integration, and others. Depending on student skills and desire, he or she may be involved in rigorous computer simulations, hardware-in-the-loop simulations and real field tests of different parachute- and parafoil-based payload delivery systems in Marina airport, McMillan airfield and at the Yuma Proving Ground, Yuma, AZ.
[View more at the Aerodynamic Decelerator Systems Research Laboratory website.]

Control & Optimization Laboratories

The Control and Optimization Laboratories focuses on research involving the development and application of advanced mathematical concepts to solving practical problems arising in the guidance, navigation, control and optimization of various dynamical systems. Our long-term research goals are to develop applicable techniques for the control of complex nonlinear systems. A new revolutionary approach to solving dynamic optimization problems is the main focus of our research effort. Legendre, Chebyshev and Sinc pseudospectral methods are at the core of solving nonsmooth dynamic optimization problems. The research efforts are conducted in our four laboratories.

[View more at the Control & Optimization Laboratories website.]

Center for Survivability & Lethality

This Center was "re-established" to look at a wide range of topics in both survivability and lethality (To thwart, withstand, and counter attacks against the United States and its allies by establishing survivability and lethality as an integrated engineering design process throughout all engineering and analysis disciplines).

The CSL brings together faculty and students with expertise in a wide range of technical fields, such as survivability, sensors, weapons, radar, infrared and radar signatures, warhead design, ship shock, electronic warfare, weaponeering, operations analyses, and system engineering, to focus on making U.S. platforms (such as submarines, surface ships, ground vehicles, fixed and rotary wing aircraft, UAVs, and space assets), infrastructure (such as airports, power plants, chemical depots, and transportation centers), and personnel more survivable, as well as making our current and future weapon systems more lethal to the enemy.
[View more at the Center for Survivability & Lethality website.]



MAE Laboratories

MAE Laboratories are designed as complements to the educational mission and research interests of the department. In addition to extensive facilities for the support of student and faculty research, a variety of general use equipment is available. This includes equipment and facilities for the investigation of problems in engineering mechanics; a completely equipped materials science laboratory, including advanced scanning electron microscopes, an Auger microprobe, a transmission electron microscope and X-ray diffractometers; an oscillating water tunnel, a unique underwater towing tank and a low turbulence water channel; a vibration analysis laboratory; a fluid power controls laboratory; a robotics and real-time control laboratory; facilities for experimentation with low velocity air flows; equipment for instruction in thermal transport phenomena; a laser Doppler velocimeter; nuclear radiation detection equipment and an interactive CAD/CAE computer graphics laboratory.

Experimentation is further enhanced by a broad selection of analog and digital data acquisition and processing equipment and instrumentation. The Mechanical Engineering Department also houses the largest of several machine shops on campus. The ME Dept. shop includes a state-of-the-art 3-axis CNC milling machine, a CNC lathe, and a variety of other high-precision machine tools and fabrication equipment which allow the manufacture of parts and systems in support of teaching and research.

The following laboratories are available for teaching and research:


Unmanned Systems Lab

Unmanned Systems are a critical element in Navy planning for future littoral operations. They include fixed bottom mounted data gathering nodes, unmanned submarines, surface vessels, and aerial vehicles. Interconnectivity with acoustic and radio communications links are key to the development of modern naval systems. These assets may be used for mine clearing and other shallow water reconnaissance and intelligence gathering operations. The Laboratory houses 2 autonomous Submarines (ARIES and REMUS) as well as the UAV FROG and subsurface Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers (ADCP), equipped with Acoustic Modems and supports coursework in Control and Autonomous Systems.


CAD/CAE Computer Laboratory

This lab consists of Windows PC's and is used heavily by students from several departments for both class and thesis related work.
NANO/MEMSLABORATORY: This laboratory provides a facility for teaching the emerging technologies of NANO/MEMS.


Fluid Mechanics Combined Laboratories

These labs include a hydrodynamics facility with U-tunnel for the study of a wide range of phenomena, such as the interaction of vortices with free surfaces. This lab is unique for research in the detection of submarines. Also, this laboratory provides for instruction in fluid power and power transmission systems. This laboratory also supports instruction in basic courses in fluid mechanics. This laboratory is equipped with a wind tunnel for specific instruction in hydro/aero-dynamic phenomena.


Technical Support Facility

This facility provides broad support, to both students and faculty, in electronics, data acquisition and computation; in machining and fabrication, and in instrumentation calibration.


Materials Characterization Laboratories

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering hosts several shared user facilities focused on characterization of materials from surface properties, materials processing, advanced mechanical properties, microstructure, etc. These facilities support teaching and research with a focus on defense applications.

Mechanical Characterization Facilities: Series of laboratories with Rockwell hardness, Struers Durascan micro-indentation Vicker’s hardness, and an Agilent (now KLA) G200 nano-indentation Berkovich hardness testers. Tensile testing is performed with an Instron 5982 universal testing rig. Tribology can be performed with a Nanovea T50 tribometer with modules for high temperature wear, tribocorrosion, and in-situ fluid tribology.

Heat Treatment Laboratory: This laboratory supports MAE courses with a selection of conventional box furnaces, tube furnaces, and vacuum ovens. Tube furnaces are available for treatment of samples in air, N2, and Ar environments with temperatures up to 1400 °C. The laboratory also sports a Melvern RH2000 capillary rheometer.

Metallurgy Laboratory: This laboratory hosts a full suite of sectioning, grinding, polishing, and etching equipment and supplies for the metallurgical preparation of samples for further analysis. The lab has a low-speed diamond saw and a high-speed saw for sample sectioning. Lab hosts several automatic polishers as well as a vibratory polisher. Two hot mounting systems are available for both small and large sample mounts.

Optical Microscopy Laboratory:  A Nikon Epiphot 200 metallurgical optical microscope with bright-field, dark-field, and simple polarization modes is available. The laboratory also includes a digital stereomicroscope and two analog stereomicroscopes.

Scanning Electron Microscopy Laboratory: This laboratory sports a dual-beam Thermo-Fisher Scientific (FEI) Helios 5UX. This ultra-high vacuum SEM is used for general purpose microstructural imaging but has retractable backscatter detectors for compositional contrast imaging. The SEM hosts an energy dispersive spectrometer (EDS) for chemical analysis and an electron backscatter diffractometer for micro-crystallographic analysis. The focused ion beam (FIB) in conjunction with a secondary ion detector is used for ion-contrast imaging. Finally, the SEM-FIB with the Easylift system allows for streamlined lamella preparation for analysis in the transmission electron microscope (TEM).

Transmission Electron Microscopy Laboratory: A FEI Tecnai Osiris TEM is supported in this lab. The TEM is a 200 kV HRTEM with a ChemiSTEM system for scanning TEM imaging and nanoscale EDS analysis. The TEM also is capable of energy filtered TEM imaging and electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS) with its attached Gatan system. TEM has sample holders with tensile testing functions, or high temperature testing, or low temperature (cyro-) imaging.

X-ray Diffraction Laboratory: Two XRD systems are hosted in this laboratory. A Rigaku Miniflex 600 powder XRD used to study the crystallography of mainly powder samples but does include an attachment, or special holders, for bulk specimens. The lab also hosts a Proto iXRD used for residual stress analysis.

Thermal and Surface Characterization Laboratory: Laboratory has a Netzsch STA 449 F3 Jupiter with an attached MS403C Aëolos mass spectrometer. The STA is capable of measuring heat and weight changes in a sample up to 1550 °C under different atmospheres. Volatile components in the exhaust can be identified by the attached mass spectrometer. Surface area and pore size of a material can be estimated using a Quantachrome Nova 4200e analyzer.


Propulsion Laboratory

This lab includes the marine propulsion lab, the rocket propulsion lab, and the turbopropulsion lab. The marine propulsion lab includes gas turbine and diesel engines. This forms the core of the instructional program in marine power and propulsion. The engines are utilized for both instruction and research. This lab includes a transonic compressor and turbine test rigs, a low-speed compressor test rig, a cascade wind tunnel and spin pit, Supersonic blow-down wind tunnels (2), free-jet facility, shock-tube and small-engine test cell with 8000 cubic feet air supply @ 300 psi.


Structural Dynamics Laboratory

This lab is devoted to structural dynamics and is especially designed to facilitate both teaching and research into vibration and shock effects associated with underwater explosions, as well as related shipboard vibration problems. The ability to validate simulation models with lab-scale tests is critical for student education.


Thermal Engineering Laboratories

These labs are used mainly for instruction in heat transfer by convection phenomena of single and multi-phase flows and includes facilities for measurement of temperature change and fluid motion in a range of systems. The lab also includes equipment/instrumentation for measurements in microelectronics and microheat exchanger systems.

Convection Heat Transfer Laboratory: Used mainly for instruction in heat transfer by convection phenomena and includes facilities for measurement of temperature change and fluid motion in a range of systems.

Electronic Cooling Laboratory: The operation of microelectronic devices results in intense but very localized heating of electronic devices. The phenomena involved are unique because of the small scale and are examined in courses and lab.

Two-Phase Heat Transfer Laboratory: This is an instructional and research laboratory for the study of heat transfer involving more than one phase, e.g. heat transfer involving liquid and vapor phases during boiling or condensation.


Ship Systems Engineering (TSSE) Laboratory

This is an integrated design center in which student teams perform their capstone design project of a Navy ship. Ship design encompasses hull, mechanical, and electrical systems as well as combat systems and is done in cooperation with the Meyer Institute of Systems Engineering.


Astro-Engineering Laboratory

This lab includes the following:

Spacecraft Design Laboratory: This laboratory houses computer-aided design tools for spacecraft design and a spacecraft design library. It is used heavily by students for three spacecraft design courses, AA 3870, AA 4870, and AA 4871. Students can do collaborative spacecraft design using the unique design tools on Windows or Unix PCs that are not available in other education institution.

Smart Structure and Attitude Control Laboratory: This lab consists of five major experiment setups to facilitate the instruction and research by students in the area of both smart structures, sensors, and actuators for active vibration control, vibration isolation, and shape control in space applications and attitude control of flexible spacecraft and space robotic manipulators. In addition to students' thesis research, it also supports courses, AE4816 Dynamics and Control of Smart Structures and AE3811 Space System Laboratory, and AA 3818, Spacecraft Attitude Dynamics and Control.

Optical Relay Spacecraft Laboratory: This joint laboratory of NPS and AFRL is used for both instruction and research on acquisition, tracking, and pointing of flexible military spacecraft. The main facilities include a bifocal relay mirror spacecraft attitude simulator, actuated by variable speed control moment gyros, a single focal spacecraft attitude simulators, actuated by reaction wheels, and an optical beam and jitter control test bed. This laboratory is used for courses AA 3811, AA 3818, and AA 4818.

Satellite Servicing Laboratory: The Satellite Servicing Laboratory, funded by NPS and AFRL, hosts the Autonomous Docking and Spacecraft Servicing Simulator (AUDASS). This test bed, consisting of two independent robotic vehicles (a chaser and a target), aims to carry out on-the-ground testing of satellite servicing and proximity formation flight technologies. The vehicles float, via air pads, on a polished granite table, providing a frictionless support for the simulation in 2-D of the zero-g dynamics. This is used for course AA 3811.

FLTSATCOM Laboratory: This laboratory consists of a qualification model of the Navy communications satellite, FLTSATCOM, the associated ground support equipment for testing the satellite. This is an instructional laboratory and is used by students in laboratory course AA 3811. Students send the command to the satellite for spin-up of reaction wheel, rotation of solar array drive and firing sequence of thrusters and get telemetry on status of the command and battery temperature and current etc.